Tag Archives: demons

Today’s Scripture – December 5, 2017

Luke 11:24-26 (NIV) “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

The tragedy that Jesus is talking about here was experienced by many people in His day, and is still tragically experienced by many people today. Jesus cast out many demons during His earthly ministry, sometimes several from the same person. He did this not only to deliver those held captive, but to show forth the reality of the kingdom.

The tragedy came because some of these people simply returned to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to demonic influences in the first place. So they were easy targets to become “repossessed.” The same old demons that had been cast out returned to find the heart of their victim empty, and so simply moved back in, often with additional demons as well, making that person more wretched and miserable than they were before.

The same thing happens today in a subtly different manner. When someone decides to turn away from habits and activities that have them bound, to start going to church, maybe even to “accept Jesus,” but then go back to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to captivity in the first place, they become easy targets to be taken captive again. May quickly revert to their old habits, and often end up worse off than they were before.

The solution today is the same one that was necessary in Jesus’ day. That is, to realize that it is not enough to simply cast out the old evil spirits. The empty space then needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when the old spirits return, they do not find an empty space simply waiting to be refilled. They will find a holy occupant filling every space in that person’s life, leaving no room at all for them. And they will go away, and not return as long as the Holy Spirit is in residence.

Father, this is an all-too-familiar story. We see it happen all the time that a person “gets saved,” but then turns away soon after, often falling deeper into captivity to sin than they were before. We write them off as “shallow soil,” but the reality may simply be that we stopped too soon, and did not ensure their stability and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts before we left them on their own. How many of those “relapses” could have been prevented with better, more intentional discipleship and mentoring? Help me, Lord, to walk more closely with those who are new to the faith, to ensure that they are well-discipled, well-rooted, well-established, before I move on. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 4, 2017

Luke 11:23 (NIV) “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.

Jesus is still addressing these words to the Pharisees who have accused Him of being able to cast out demons only because He Himself was possessed by the king of demons. In the previous two paragraphs, He has successfully rebutted their accusation, as well as credibly painting Himself as being personally much more powerful than the demons, and even more powerful than the king of demons, satan himself.

Now Jesus goes on to make two self-confirmatory statements that speak not only to His power, but to His identity.

The first statement, “He who is not with me is against me,” seems strange for him to have to verbalize. Isn’t it obvious that if someone is not for a person, they are on the opposite side?

But Jesus is not being philosophical. He is actually challenging the Pharisees to choose one side or the other. And in the light of the previous discourse and the power that He has demonstrated over the demonic forces that had stymied the best efforts of the Pharisees, this statement has an extra impact.

Jesus has shown that He is more powerful than the demons, because He is literally driving out the demons by the finger of God, and as a sign that the kingdom of God was present in His own life (verse 20 above). That means that if the Pharisees continue to work against Jesus, they are aligning themselves with the demons that His is defeating, and ultimately against God Himself.

The second statement nests neatly with the first: “He who does not gather with me scatters.” If Jesus really is the messenger of God’s kingdom, which the miracles and His ability to cast out demons proves, the He is at work gathering God’s people into God’s kingdom, the work to which He was called (Luke 19:10). And, consequently, any who oppose Him, who try to cast doubt on who He is and on where His power comes from, are frustrating His efforts. And, if they succeed at all, they will only succeed in scattering those that God is trying to gather to Himself through the work of Jesus. Thus, again, they will find themselves working against God, and against what He is trying to accomplish through Jesus.

Father, Jesus’ strength in the face of this opposition came from His sure knowledge that He was doing Your work in every detail. There was not a speck of His own agenda in there, so He could actually say that to stand against Him was to stand against You, and that to frustrate the work that He was doing was to work against what You were doing through Him. Lord, help me to do Your will as completely, as selflessly, as passionately as Jesus. Help me to so identify with You, to so commit myself to Your agenda, that Your purpose becomes fully my own, and Your own passion fully consumes me, so that Your kingdom work will advance powerfully through me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 2, 2017

Luke 11:21-22 (NIV) “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.”

Jesus continues to teach those who accused Him of being able to cast out demons only because He Himself was possessed by the king of the demons. Jesus had already challenged that idea successfully, effectively showing where His ability did not come from. Now He moves on to show how He was able to do what He did.

The key point in this paragraph is that, even though satan is strong and has the ability to lock a person up in sin and bondage, and even to possess them and take their freedom and autonomy away, Jesus is stronger than satan. He is, in fact, strong enough to attack satan where he lives, to overpower him, and to take away every defense in which he trusts. Then He is able to take away his spoils, the people that he had taken captive.

This is key for Christians, as much now as at any time in the past. Today, thanks in large part to poplar novels, movies, and television shows, most people, even many Christians, see satan as an unbeatable foe that must be feared. Borrowing from Gnosticism and Greek philosophy, many Christians see satan as the opposing force of evil to God’s goodness, and equal to God in strength, but in the opposite direction. They see him as a fearsome enemy that, if he can be defeated at all, can only be beaten with great expenditure of power, and likely great loss.

But the reality is that satan is a created being, as far below God and His power as an ant is below human beings. Even though an ant is amazingly strong, and can lift many times its own body weight, it is so small that, when attacked by a human being, it has no adequate defenses, but ends up squashed on the pavement. Jesus never had any problems defeating satan and withstanding his temptations in the wilderness. Instead, He said no to every one of them, and when He commanded satan to leave Him alone, satan had no choice but to slink away without a word. And Jesus had the same authority and power over demons as over satan himself. Even when He approached the man possessed by a whole legion of demons (Luke 8:27ff), the demons didn’t fight against Him, but fell immediately to begging for their very existence before He cast them out into a nearby herd of pigs.

A corollary of this fact of Jesus’ superiority to satan is that anyone in whom Jesus lives is also more powerful than satan, and never has to run from him or his forces, no matter how many, no matter how fiercely they roar. Neither Peter nor Paul ever fought against demons; they simply commanded them to go, and they left without a word. And that same authority is available today to all of those who belong to Jesus.

Father, our thinking in this area really has been tainted by movies and television shows, making us fearful, and driving the truth of these verses out of our minds and hearts. Help us to think in kingdom ways about these things, too. Help me to be a strong warrior whenever I have to stand against temptations, against demons, against evil in any of its forms. Help me to trust not in my own strength, but in the truth that the one who is in me, Jesus, is far greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 1, 2017

Luke 11:17-20 (NIV) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

The Pharisees had accused Jesus of being able to cast out demons because He was possessed by Beelzebul, the king of the demons. It was a combination of ignorance and jealousy that cause them to make this accusation. Ignorance because they were spiritually blind, and could not see at all what was happening right before their eyes. And jealousy because, even though they had theological degrees and the admiration of the people for their wisdom and righteousness, they were powerless against demons. If they ever were successful at casting them out, which was rare, it was a difficult process instead of the effortlessness of Jesus’ example.

It was because of their spiritual blindness and their powerlessness that Jesus took pity on them and patiently explained to them why their reasoning made absolutely no sense at all. First of all, there were only two possible sources for Jesus’ authority over demons: God or satan. But if Jesus’ authority came from satan, and if satan was therefore casting out his own soldiers in the name of the kingdom of God, he would have been cutting his own feet out from under himself, devastating his own forces to build up the reputation of his enemy. A very little thought shows that that idea made no sense at all. Besides, if only the king of the demons could cast out demons, that meant that every time the Pharisees were successful at casting out a demon, it proved that they themselves were in league with the devil!

That left the only other possibility. Jesus’ authority came from God, and his every defeat of a demon was a defeat for the kingdom of darkness by the kingdom of light, and proof that the kingdom of God had come into the world. That also meant that Jesus had a relationship with God that those Pharisees did not have, despite their reputations. It meant that the appropriate thing for them to do was to humble themselves and enroll as Jesus’ apprentices, so that they could learn about God and His kingdom through His teaching and His example. And, if that were true, it meant that the Pharisees had to admit that they were wrong. And they weren’t about to do that!

Father, it is sad when I see someone who is willfully blind like those Pharisees, who cannot see Your works for what they truly are, and who will not see You for who You truly are. Save us, Lord, from all such blindness. Instead, help all of us, Your people, to see You and Your kingdom every day, and to share in Your power every moment, just like Jesus. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 29, 2017

Luke 11:14-16 (NIV) Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

The occasion for this conflict was the simple casting out of a demon that had made a man unable to speak. And, as was always the case, Jesus successfully drove out the demon, restoring the power of speech to the man.

The majority of the people who witnessed this exorcism were powerfully impressed with Jesus’ easy command over the demon. He employed none of the usual accoutrements of exorcists – anointing oil, candles, bells, and such. He simply spoke a word of command, and the demon left. There was never any struggle, never any sign of resistance.

This caused some Pharisees in the crowd (Matthew 9:34) to accuse Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebul, the king of demons. How else could they explain Jesus’ easy command of the demons, His inexplicable authority over them that none of the exorcists in their own crowd had? How else could they explain the fact that the demons never fought back, unless Jesus was using the authority of their own king, against whom they did not dare to rebel?

Others in the crowd, again, predominantly Pharisees, were demanding of Jesus a sign from heaven (of their own choosing, of course) to prove to them Jesus’ authority. Maybe if He could do the impossible task that they set for Him (such as moving the sun back in the sky, like Isaiah did) they would set aside their doubts and listen to Him.

But all of those accusations and demands did not come from an honest pursuit of the truth. Instead, they were motivated by jealousy of Jesus’ power and authority. The Pharisees had no spiritual power – they only had rules and regulations that they were champions at obeying. And they had no spiritual authority. They themselves could not cast out any demons or do any of the miracles that Jesus pulled off without any apparent effort. So the only way that they could maintain their own illusion of authority was to attack Jesus’ credibility, which they did with increasing vigor.

But Jesus was not a trained dog that would jump at the commands of those who were challenging Him to prove Himself. He did not need to be accepted by these “authorities” to validate His own identity. He was the eternal Son of God, and they should have been seeking HIS approval instead!

Father, Jesus’ authority was always questioned by those who saw themselves as having authority. And His miracles were doubted by those who could do no miracles themselves. His identity was challenged by those who had proved themselves to be spiritually blind. And He never took the bait! He was always 100% confident of who He was and what He had been called to do. Help me, along with all of Your people, to have that same confidence, that same assurance of our identity in Christ, so that the doubters and nay-sayers can never shake our confidence and faith. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 8, 2017

Luke 10:17-20 (NIV) The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

When the seventy-two returned to Jesus after their mission trip, they were full of news. Each one wanted to tell Him about all that they had accomplished. They all had been given authority over evil spirits, just like Jesus had told them. But it is one thing to be told that you will be able to cast out a demon, and a totally different thing to actually find that you are able to do it!

Jesus was pleased that they had been faithful, including bravely standing up to demons, and He told them that He, too, had seen demons fall, even Satan himself. But even though they had been given that authority, even though they no longer had to fear attacks from evil spirits (symbolized here as snakes and scorpions) because of that authority, they needed to make sure that they didn’t get so distracted by sharing and comparing stories with each other that they missed the main point: none of this would be possible if it were not for the overarching truth that their names were written in heaven.

No mere human being can stand up to a demon in his or her own strength. That kind of authority has to come from God, and that authority will only be given to those who have received Jesus, and whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:12-15). But if a person has been given that authority, we no longer have to be afraid of evil spirits, or even of Satan himself. Those evil beings no longer have any authority over our lives, and must flee whenever one of God’s people tell them to. There was never a battle, never a struggle when Jesus encountered a demon. When He said to leave, they left immediately. Even Satan had to leave immediately when Jesus commanded Him to go (Matthew 4:10-11). The same was true of the apostles: no battle, no struggle, just instant compliance by the demons. And the same can be true of us, too.

Father, outside of a few circles, very few of us have really been taught that we have that kind of authority and protection from You. But the promise and the evidence is all through Your word. Help me to walk in this truth today, secure in the knowledge that my name is written in heaven, and then confident of being able to walk in Your authority over all kinds of evil. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 16, 2017

Luke 9:37-43a (NIV) The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion.
But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus, Peter, James, and John all came down from an amazing mountain-top experience in God’s presence, and found themselves squarely in the kingdom of the world.

The issue that challenged Jesus most in the situation that greeted Him there was not that a demon needed to be cast out; Jesus dealt with demon possession frequently. What disappointed, even alarmed Him, was that He and His followers were preparing to start for Jerusalem, where Jesus would be arrested and executed. Even though He would rise again, He would be headed home to heaven very shortly afterwards, leaving the responsibility for leading the people of the kingdom in the hands of these followers, who apparently weren’t able to handle a simple exorcism!

The anxious father had sought out Jesus’ camp at the foot of the mountain, and was disappointed to find that Jesus was not there, and His disciples weren’t sure when He would return. But the disciples were confident that they would be able to cast this demon out. They had done it before, when Jesus had sent them out ahead of Him (Luke 9:1-2). But no matter what words they used or what prayers they prayed, the spirit refused to budge.

That was when Jesus suddenly walked into the camp. His frustrated cry, “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” was aimed at the disciples, His inner circle, who seemingly had failed to learn this important lesson.

But Jesus quickly turned from the shame-faced disciples to the need at hand. As soon as He focused on the demon-possessed boy, the demon, in a show of power designed to intimidate Jesus just as it had the disciples, threw the boy into a spectacular and alarming convulsion. But Jesus wasn’t intimidated in the least. He simply rebuked the demon, told it to leave, and it had to go.

The small crowd there along with the disciples was stunned at how quickly and effortlessly Jesus had dealt with the demon, and immediately began to praise the Lord. Jesus simply gave the boy, free at last from the demon that had plagued him for years, back to his grateful father.

Father, we so complicate things, and try to impose our own ideas, techniques, and strategies on them. The disciples failed to learn that casting out demons was never a matter of technique, but of God-given spiritual authority over them. Jesus simply exercised His authority, and the demon fled. As a follower of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, I have that same authority. Help me to live in You, obey Your leading and, when appropriate, exert that authority to help set people free. Amen.

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